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Who’s the power forward… again?

If we know one thing about the Rockets, we know that James Harden and Dwight Howard absolutely need to start and finish games. It’s hard to feel confident about much beyond that, but there are a few elements of the rotation that seem set. Chandler Parsons is the primary option at small forward. Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin share point guard duties. It’s still a process, even in February, but that much has stopped changing. The power forward spot also looks to be a solved situation. Why, if we look at Houston’s tilt against the Phoenix Suns, we see the clear leader there. Terrence Jones has cemented his role as starter, and as such he’s finishing games… except he didn’t.

Donatas Motiejunas got the nod from head coach Kevin McHale to play the final, crucial minutes for the Rockets as they struggled to beat the Phoenix Suns. In the previous outing against the Golden State Warriors, McHale chose to give those same crucial minutes to Omri Casspi. After an impressive coming out party for Terrence Jones this season, something has happened. The seemingly-resolved battle for the power forward position is heating back up again, and Terrence Jones’ hold on that starting position looks anything but firm.

Since the All-Star Break, Terrence Jones has averaged a paltry 21 minutes per game. Given, three games is a particularly small sample size, but the dropoff is stark. He was previously averaging 28 minutes per game, and that includes a number of early season games in which he played very limited minutes. The bottom line is that he’s been recently demoted from starter minutes to backup minutes, and it’s opened a door everyone thought was locked. Why, then, is this door coming open?

The simple answer is that Jones isn’t shooting very well. His accuracy is wildly variant from game to game, though this isn’t at all unusual for a player at his position, much less one who shoots a number of threes. That’s an issue to be sure, but it’s one that the entire team shared with him for this entire season. Streaky shooting alone can’t account for this loss in faith by McHale.

The most likely answer is “Defense.” McHale likes to stand by his defense, and this Rockets team is no different despite the fact that the Rockets have struggled to reach much above an average defensive efficiency. Whether the reason was a specific performance or a change in dynamic after the All-Star break, things are up in the air. It’s like a trip back to July, before there was any clarity.

That lack of clarity might be the root cause. With so many options for power forward, the Rockets may now be willing to try unusual lineups to try to manage a changing array of opponents. Casspi, for instance, allows greater shooting but less strength. Motiejunas seems to be getting a solid hold on the team defensive scheme and may become a valuable post scorer. James Harden even got in on the sweepstakes, defending David Lee and opening the way for Lin to take his place at the shooting guard position.

Whether Kevin McHale can turn all the moving pieces in the right way remains to be seen. Whether Jones will hold onto his starting gig is also in question. With so many seemingly workable players able to slot in behind Jones, power forward by committee seems to be very much alive for now. With the unpredictable nature of Houston and their roster, there’s no way to predict what change in coming weeks. Jones may lose his position, he might lock himself in as the starter, or Robert Covington might blow our minds. We don’t know who the primary power forward is, but we know to expect the unexpected yet again.

 

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Total comments: 13
  • Steven says 8 months ago

    I think Jones has been nursing a minor injury or illness since the break. IDK where I heard it, I think it was the announcers after the first game back from the break. We'll see though. D-mo has been killing it.. Pairing D-mo with Dwight gives you the height/size to be intimidating on defense, and the athleticism on offense that is like pairing two PFs. Jones is able to jump higher than D-mo resulting in more blocks, but D-mo has better bulk and speed and is quicker than Jones when it comes to helping on D or driving to the hoop. D-mo also posts up better than most on the team.

    The addition of Hamilton also adds more flexibility to the forward position especially in small-ball lineups.

    Who is Troy Daniels anyway? Just saw we added him last Friday...

    2 guard from VCU who has been blowing up the D-League.
  • bob schmidt says 8 months ago

    http://www.nba.com/rockets/news/rockets-sign-troy-daniels-rgv-vipersTroy Daniels? He is described here,

  • Alituro says 8 months ago

    I think Jones has been nursing a minor injury or illness since the break. IDK where I heard it, I think it was the announcers after the first game back from the break. We'll see though. D-mo has been killing it.. Pairing D-mo with Dwight gives you the height/size to be intimidating on defense, and the athleticism on offense that is like pairing two PFs. Jones is able to jump higher than D-mo resulting in more blocks, but D-mo has better bulk and speed and is quicker than Jones when it comes to helping on D or driving to the hoop. D-mo also posts up better than most on the team.

    The addition of Hamilton also adds more flexibility to the forward position especially in small-ball lineups.

    Who is Troy Daniels anyway? Just saw we added him last Friday...

  • Buckko says 8 months ago Harden is a great post defender because of his size and strength and that's why he gets matched up with PFs. Brandon Bass can't shoot the 3 and has an undersible contract that would ruin the salary cap management.
  • smeggysmeg says 8 months ago

    power forward by committee, Jones and Mo are just too damn inconsistent to own the spot, they have great games when teams don't scout or defenders forget to sag on the perimeter when guarding them....

    Cassipi has regressed to the norm.....

    Chandler will get some major run there in the playoffs

    Asik will be back in the PF rotation in the playoffs depending on the match-up

    and as suggested by our esteemed leader Mr Hut, Haren will even play there as its the best spot to hide his no trying on D large booty

  • Jatman20 says 8 months ago Terrence has been gun shy for about a month now from three point-land. That is why I wanted Bass....a guy who could get physical and not a carbon- copy body type as Terrence. TJ may need another summer of working with the shooting coach.
  • bob schmidt says 8 months ago

    Last night was a good example of when size matters... Frye was hurting us with his length, but D-Mo held his own with him, and other Suns seemed intimidated with Dwight and D-Mo. Bottom line is that what we did worked, and that is what it is all about, winning.

  • YaoMan says 8 months ago

    I think McHale just goes with who's playing the best at the time. Or perhaps considers the match-ups with the 4 spot at the end of games. I'm not sure but it seems as if Jones sometimes will try to handle the ball too much or try to do too much outside is abilities. I feel like McHale almost trusts D-Mo more in late game situations because he knows his strengths and limitations and and he wouldn't try to do too much on the floor, like dribble drive into the teeth of the defense or try to bring the ball up by himself. I do hope Jones develops this sense of basketball IQ as I feel his talents are good enough to be at the end of games but I think D-Mo's international experience has helped him understand his role especially late in games. Just my take...

  • Buckko says 8 months ago It's crazy to say we criticized demo for his D, now that's what he gets praised for.
  • Juan Grande says 8 months ago

    DMo's defense and team defense has definitely improved.

    He is more active and moving his feet well.

    You can tell he has more confidence and understands what is expected of him. He know where is supposed to be now. This may not sound like much but it was not always true.

    I dont know if he is now or will ever be the answer at the 4, but it is at the least very nice to see him improve.

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Wow--for the incredibly lazy or internet impaired here is a link to the box score.

    The answer is 3.

  • 3Dgoggles says 8 months ago

    I would just leave it to poor ball-handling from Terrance Jones. I missed the 1st quarter so I missed Jones doing most of his damage. But I was relieved when McHale took him out because he looked really sloppy with the ball. How many turnovers did he have last night anyway? Anybody?

  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    Covington is too undersized IMO for PF and he doesn't have the athleticism to make up for it, but he'll be a great backup behind parsons.

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